Since sharing my story about Indigenous ancestry, there has been a lot of conversation about Indigenous identity and Indigenous heritage and ancestry — two very complex and nuanced issues that must be considered from an Indigenous perspective.
While I have shared that I am not Mi’kmaq and I do not claim an Indigenous identity, questions about my intentions in identifying my Indigenous ancestry and whether I have benefitted from sharing my understanding of my family’s history have sparked important conversations on and beyond our campus.
I have been reflecting on this feedback from the Indigenous community, and I sincerely regret any hurt or confusion sharing my story may have caused. That was never my intention and I deeply apologize to those I have impacted.
Any action I have taken in sharing my story or promoting indigenization in my professional roles was always undertaken in a spirit of reconciliation, curiosity and continued learning and respect for Indigenous Peoples. While this personal process started many years ago, I recognize these actions may be hurtful or cause harm.
I understand Memorial’s Board of Regents is embarking on its own engagement process through an Indigenous-led Roundtable, which will help in guiding the university on these issues.
I am wholeheartedly supportive of this process to seek Indigenous guidance and knowledge. Indigenous Peoples must lead this conversation and we all have a role to play in listening and ensuring their voices are elevated in the weeks to come.
As president of our university, my commitment to indigenizing Memorial University is sincere and unwavering. My hope is that through safe, respectful and open dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and the university community, we can advance Memorial University’s commitment to these important matters.
This is why, out of respect for this process, I asked the Board to permit me to temporarily step back from my duties as president. It is important to me that the community is comfortable providing honest and open feedback and I do not want to distract from these important discussions in any way.
The Board has appointed Dr. Neil Bose, interim provost and vice-president (academic) and pro vice-chancellor to the role of acting president and vice-chancellor. Dr. Bose is a trusted colleague and member of our community, and I am confident he will be a skillful leader while at the helm of our university over the next six weeks. He is surrounded and supported by our talented executive team, and I have every confidence in the continued operations of our university.
I want to sincerely thank everyone who has reached out to express your candid feedback. We must always be willing to learn and commit to doing better, and I appreciate all that you have had to say in this last week. As a proud member of the Memorial community, I remain faithfully and fully committed to continuing to advance our collective efforts to indigenize the university and look forward to the feedback from these important discussions.
Respectfully, Vianne Timmons, president